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Ex parte Lincare Inc. and Angela Stewart

Ex parte Lincare Inc. and Angela Stewart
(In re: Sandra Martin v. Lincare Inc. and Angela Stewart)
Supreme Court of Alabama
August 19, 2016
No. 1141373

Plaintiff worked for Lincare, Inc. Her supervisor was Angela Stewart. Plaintiff tendered resignation of her employment with Lincare, and during such, a physical altercation arose, wherein Plaintiff claims to have been assaulted by her supervisor, suffering broken fingers, and damage to her neck and arm.

Plaintiff brought claims against her employer for benefits under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, as well as tort claims against her employer and her supervisor of assault and battery, and outrage. Plaintiff demanded trial by jury on “all issues triable by jury.” Defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff’s jury demand, and plaintiff’s tort claims. The trial court did not dismiss any of plaintiff’s tort claims, and did not grant defendants’ motion to strike plaintiff’s jury demand regarding her tort claims.

Plaintiff argued that her employment relationship with Lincare had ceased, because she had resigned prior to her injury. The Supreme Court of Alabama found that plaintiff was in an employment relationship with Lincare, and that her injuries were work-related despite the fact that she had resigned immediately before her injury, citing prior case law that an employee is afforded a reasonable time to exit the premises before the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act loses effect. For that reason, plaintiff’s tort claims against her employer were barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Act outlined in Sec 25-5-11, Ala. Code 1975.

Plaintiff’s supervisor filed with the trial court a motion to dismiss for plaintiff’s failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Supreme Court of Alabama did not dismiss plaintiff’s claims against her supervisor, drawing a distinction on mandamus review between a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, and a motion to dismiss based on exclusivity provisions of the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. The Alabama Supreme Court found that a writ of mandamus is not the appropriate mechanism for appellate review of a trial court decision to deny a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendant cited case law finding that a writ of mandamus is appropriate for review of a trial court’s denial of a motion to dismiss based on immunity provisions of the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, but no case law regarding a denial based on failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Alabama Supreme Court did not comment on whether plaintiff’s claims against her supervisor were appropriate under the intentional conduct provisions of Ala. Code Sec. 25-5-11.

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims for a jury trial, citing a waiver signed by plaintiff denying a jury trial with regards to any claim brought against her employer, Lincare. The Alabama Supreme Court declined to dismiss plaintiff’s jury demand against her supervisor for two reasons: 1) The right to a jury trial is a fundamental aspect of the Alabama legal system, and 2) the waiver of jury trial was not intended to extend to her supervisor as an intended third party beneficiary. Plaintiff’s tort claims against Lincare had already been dismissed by the Alabama Supreme Court, and so the issue of jury trial was thereby rendered moot.

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